Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I'm Back!


Dear Friends,
   First, I really need to apologize. I've been neglecting the business end of the writing for months, and my website has been an under-construction disaster since September. For that, I'm sorry. I divide my working time between writing and law school, and I'm afraid the studies got the better of me.

   But I'm back! Now that school is done for the summer, I've had a few days to tackle all those overdue projects. In particular, updating the website was a priority. I've reloaded everything, cleaned away excess old news, and remodeled. Go ahead and check out my Books, Works in Progress, and Author pages!

   As for what's going on for the moment, I'll be living in Oak Harbor, WA for the summer to intern with the US Navy's JAG Corps. In my free time, I hope to finish writing The Gods' Punishment and get started on The Uprising, the explosive conclusion to The Uprising Trilogy. In the meantime, paperback versions of The Faith should be available from Amazon in the next few weeks. I'll post once they're up, so check back for more news!

   As always, please contact me if you have any questions. I'll keep writing!

Yours,
Michael

Beating the Thriller



We all know that thrillers and modern romances are the biggest sellers. They dominate the markets, and it seems to be what all our friends are reading. But what if you're not into the newest spy-chase novel and the modern romance isn't your thing? For me, the draw of historical fiction has always been stronger than the idea of writing-for-profit in a genre that will probably sell better. But, that leaves historical fiction writers at a disadvantage.
Or does it? What can we as authors of historical fiction do to balance the market for us?

Write for the Public
First off, you must try to use what's currently popular. What do you see in movies/other popular books/popular culture? For me, a military historian, a prime example of this is works on Rome and ancient Greece. The ancient world is hot right now. It's sexy. Films like Gladiator, 300, Alexander, Centurion, The Eagle, and many more capitalize on that. They may not be exactly factual (but neither, strictly speaking, is historical fiction), but they do increase the public's care and concern for history. For me, that means that works on Rome and ancient Greece will sell better. In fact, I'm in the process of planning a novel set in that age.
This works for other subgenres, like historical romance as well. Look at Downturn Abbey and the like. Romance itself is timeless; make money from that. If you see that the Middle Ages is catching the public's eye, use that to your advantage. Right now, Victorianism is ripe for writing. With Steampunk (a fantastic genre that is easily mixed with historical fiction), Sherlock Holmes, and others making a dent in pop culture, take advantage of it. Tailor your work for the public.

Use Historical Fiction to Change Your World
Although the money is fun, all authors also long to be remembered in their works. They want to have a lasting impact on their world. Don't you? I'm just finishing Mary Renault's masterpiece, The Last of theWine. It's set in Athens during the Peloponnesian War and follows a young soldier and student of Socrates. The protagonist, Alexias, falls in love with an older student and another philosopher, Lysis. The book tells the story of these men's love, their lives, and the tragedy that is war. But what's more is that it was written in the 1950s. At that time, being a homosexual was not only unpopular, it could be ruinous to one's career, to one's very life. Renault wrote the work in part to paint a larger picture of the issue.
She wrote the book because, as a homosexual, she was tired of the backlash. She wanted to show that, throughout time, homosexuals were just as capable of doing great deeds, of being human. Her works all touch on this and other social issues.
So can yours.
Do you care about the environment? Look at Victorian England and the damages just beginning by the Industrial Movement. How about immigration — do you find immigration policy today unfair? Look at Ellis Island. Use your genre to shed new light on an issue you're passionate about. The beautiful thing about the past — the thing which let Renault get away with such commentary in an age of repression — is that everything is in a different context. In the age of kings and revolutions, actions are different than today. Looking into the past gives us the freedom to be critical, to be un-shaking in our critique or our praise for what once was and is now lost. Your readers will make the connection. Your book can truly change your world.


Tell a New Story
How often have you read a story that sounds just like all the others? I can't tell you the number of times. It seems like people are becoming more and more unoriginal. But you, as an author of historical fiction, have access to thousands of years and millions of stories waiting to be told. As authors in this genre, we have the license to find the gems in the past that get lost.
Recently, I was researching a famous general from the Napoleonic Age, but he almost never made it to manhood; as a child, he almost suffocated to death by pretending to be a dog. He got stuck in his family's doggy-door, and because he was pretending, he refused to use his voice. All he did was bark. And his parents laughed at their funny son. Until he passed out. And turned blue. Obviously, he lived, but anecdotes like this are beautiful. You simply can't make some of these things up!
Now, I'm not telling you to steal your stories. But, unlike those spy thrillers that sound the same, we have millions of people's tales waiting to be redone. Research. Add your own voice. Change things. But draw from that amazing well that history gives us. You can then write a new story that will capture and inspire.
So, if you're sick of people complaining of the power popular genres have, use your tools. Write to fit what's popular, use your historical lens to change the world, and bring amazing stories from the past to life.
Then see those run-of-the-mill thrillers compete.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I Write



"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


            As I work through my first big writing project, the question of why I'm writing comes to mind. It's one of those big questions that people tend to ask. It fits with the "Why am I here?" and "What's the purpose of life?" genre. As such, there's many weighty answers to be had. Some people write in order to prove that they existed. After they've died, their writing lives on, a permanent record that they affected the world in some small way. Others write in order to display some theme that has taken hold of their lives. Be it the viciousness of poverty or the wickedness of Latin verbs, these people write so their opinions can be taken on by others. And there are many other reasons for writing.

            For me, writing is an extension of my being. It should be; that's another integral part of being a writer. But I love telling stories. Having people settle around and raptly listen to a tale gives me an immense amount of joy. The story could be frivolous or incredibly poignant, but the act of telling is vital. Storytelling throws me back thousands of years. I become a Homer to the Greeks, offering my tale for their consumption and enjoyment. Together, both storyteller and listener become enthralled in the interaction, and both are (hopefully) bettered by the experience.

            Writing is simply another extension of this storytelling.  I hope my written accounts give people some measure of joy as the story spools out before them. Yet, I don't write to be frivolous. Much of my material deals with important themes, like the personal side of war and the interplay between violence and the pursuit of the Good; telling these themes is important to me too.

            Writing for me is like the quote above. Like friendship, writing is not necessary for survival. It doesn't produce food or provide self-defense against an attacker. Instead, it's one of those things which makes life enjoyable, which adds value to surviving.

            This is why I write. Why do you?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Write What You Know?


            I've always been told to write what I know. Teachers, friends, books have always said "What topic have you studied? That should be what your writing focuses on."

            Not to break with tradition, but I disagree. Completely.

            Writing what you know is an acceptable formula for textbooks and nonfiction; in those areas, it is essential to know the material down to the minute detail. Otherwise, the entire work loses credibility. In fiction, however, this is simply not the case. To limit one's writing to what they know eliminates countless plotlines and innumerable stories.

            Personally, I know very little about being a mother. I'm a male; I also have no children. Yet, "Dulce et Decorum" is one of my favorite pieces I've ever written. In it, a mother loses her only son to the horrors of the Wars against Napoleon.

            J. A. Konrath, one of the most successful indie writers out there, broke into traditional publishing with his Jack Daniels books. The protagonist in that series is a female detective. Konrath is a male and has never worked in law enforcement. How then has Konrath sold thousands of copies of his books? He doesn't really know much about being a woman and a detective...Or does he?

            Rather than writing what we know, fiction demands something different, something better:

            Write from your Passion.

            In my case, I feel passionately about the personal loss in war. A mother's grief is far more important to me than the faceless statistics of a battle won or lost. Seeing how conflict wrecks the lives of a single family far outweighs cries for a national struggle through bloodshed. In brief, I write to display that passion to others. So, my writing has often focused on warfare in different ages and the human suffering behind those numbers. I won't speak to Konrath's passions, but he has written extensively on his blog about passion for storylines. To mince his words, if a writer doesn't feel passionate about their plot, there's not a jot of a chance that a reader will.

            When I write, I don't necessary know what it's like to be a mother, or a grieving lover; I have never lost someone to war. Rather, I write with passion for a subject and do research to supplement what I don't know. Writer's who start with what they know can produce facts and details quickly and efficiently. But writers who write from their passions produce stories that audience will want to enjoy; if the reader can sense the emotion and life breathed into the piece, they are more likely to connect with the work.

            Write from what moves you; the knowledge can follow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome!


Dear Friends,
   Welcome to my new author's page! While I manage several blogs, it became evident that I needed to diversify my fictional writing from my historical research. Thus, this new blog will be devoted to my writing endeavors alone. If you're interested in history (particularly the Napoleonic Era), please feel free to visit Napoleon Sightings, my other home. On this page, you can learn a bit more about me, my past work, and my future plans. Welcome all and ejoy!

Yours,
Michael Seeley
May 14, 2014